Senate Vice President Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota) on Tuesday criticized the Commonwealth Ports Authority board for rescinding its decision to give Freedom Air 90 days to settle its $1.23-million debt.
“This drastic action by the board…is very troubling considering the fact that the Rota Legislative Delegation previously appealed to the board to reconsider giving Freedom Air additional time to settle its debt. The delegation is actively working with Freedom Air to obtain financial assistance,” said Hocog in a letter to CPA board chair Jose Lifoifoi.
CPA executive director Maryann Lizama declined to comment on Hocog’s letter until she confers with the board.
The CPA board voted on Monday to give the troubled carrier only until Oct. 31, 2013, to settle its debt or it would be evicted from the airport’s premises.
Hocog also sent an Open Government Act request to CPA asking it to provide the Senate with all documents, including the minutes of the meeting that led to the board’s decision to rescind its earlier decision to grant Freedom Air a three-month extension to settle its arrears.
In his letter to Lifoifoi, Hocog said that “despite the CNMI’s ailing economy and delayed government payments, Freedom Air continues to assist the people of Rota who desperately need inter-island medical referral transportation and provides cargo shipments of medical specimens and supplies that is vital for the health and welfare of its people.”
He said it is “incomprehensible” how the CPA board simply ignored the safety and livelihood of the people of Rota who struggle with the lack of or limited air and sea transportation.
“While I respect the board’s obligation to collect debts owed to CPA, the board must balance that with its obligation to provide consistent and reasonably priced air transportation to the people of Rota.”
Without Freedom Air, Hocog said it would be more difficult and expensive to provide interisland medical referral and transportation and cargo medical shipments.
Last Friday, Freedom Air filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Guam. The filing allows Freedom Air to temporarily hold creditors, such as CPA, at bay.